I know just how much Eski Kanka Jim loves Hibernian and Ankaragucu and so this weekend's results must have hit the ole bugger hard. For that reason I've decided to post something that might cheer him up, a humiliating story about me.
I was talking to fellow Commonwealth citizen Canadian Eh Kanka Richard on Saturday about ice hockey and my very limited experience of what seems like a great sport. For those of you who weren't listening, I'll recap.
It was about 1996-97 or something and I had the distinction of being proofcu basi, head of the proof department, at the fine example of media greatness that is the Turkish Daily News. Udo the long-time, and still, sports editor asked me if I wanted to go along to a reception held at the New Zealand ambassador's residence to honour the arrival of the New Zealand ice hockey team.
Besides the odd wedding I had never been to any function that laid on free beer and so the answer was obviously "yes". We had a lovely evening at the Kiwi taxpayers expense and so it was only natural that Udo asked me to do my first-ever real, live sports reporting.
Ice hockey, in the international sense, tries to ensure that there aren't too many 35-0 scorelines and so they divide the world into groups, I'm not sure how many but it is something like A through to F. Now this competition which this then-rookie reporter was sent to cover was a contest between New Zealand, South Africa and host Turkey to see who would be promoted from nothingness to group F (I think).
Full of zeal I went off to the ice skating rink in Ankara to watch the first match. Turkey versus NZ. You must remember, this was a proper international, not unlike Canada versus the USA, and so we had the usual stuff, national anthems, ambassadors, Turkish hooligans chanting away etc. etc..
I loved it, sure the quality of hockey wasn't that great but there is something strangely compelling about small people wearing heaps of protective gear smashing into each other at speed with no one having a clue where the ball is. If I remember rightly New Zealand ran out winners by about 5-1. The Turkish goal was their first-ever scored in international competition and they celebrated as if they had won the World Cup. I didn't realise the significance at the time but I'm sure I'll be boring the grandkiddies in years to come with my tale of seeing the first ever Turkish ice hockey goal.
Anyway, the match was over and the NZ ambassador and his wife got up to leave and me, not having an expense account, asked if I could get a lift back to the TDN. On the way back we laughed and joked about the game and I promised that I'd write nice things about the Kiwis.
I obliged, of course, and was very proud of my first ever effort at real live reporting. I have to thank Pat the Vet at this stage who turned my "blah blah hit the ball from 15 yards out into the net" into "a slapshot from blah blah left the puck in the back of the net".
With my by-lined articles out of the way, and my obvious enthusiasm for ice hockey being infectious, Pat the Vet and I went along to a South Africa versus Turkey match. Again, great stuff, but South Africa were just too strong. South Africa were cruising by half-time when the Turkish coach had obviously told his players to mix it up. Then came the laughs.
Try and picture it. Huge hulking South African skating down besides the barrier (no glass partitions here), considerably smaller Turk remembers his coach's instructions and starts flying straight at him. South African behemoth stops dead, leaving the puck to continue down the line. Turkish player realises too late, can't stop, smashes straight into the barrier and flies straight over. South African player keeps the puck.
Match over. The South Africans had won it and were now members of World Group F (or whatever). Your intrepid reporter then decided to try the traditional, "How do ya feel mate?" interview in the South African dressing room, only to find they were all walking out again, fully dressed for battle.
I went back to my seat and then the full dread hit me. I had reported on an entire international ice hockey competition and had left each match after the first two periods. Three periods in a match! How the bloody hell was I to know. All good games have a first half and second half, not a first third, second third and a third third.
Stupid bloody Canadian sport. I vowed to stick to proper hockey that day, the type with grass and where the only person to wear a helmet is the goalkeeper. That's goalkeeper, I repeat, not some silly goaltender. "Eh".